8 Career Paths for a Degree in Law
While according to some recent statistics, it is true that the national unemployment rate for law graduates has grown for the sixth year in a row to a whopping 15.5 percent, what is equally true is this old line: "You can do anything with a law degree".
Not everyone with a law degree will eventually end up arguing cases in the court, but thankfully, your degree must have instilled in you, several skills and attributes that are easily transferable across many fields and industry.
Skills like the ability to analyze facts and frame issues, written and oral advocacy, legislative and regulatory analysis, would readily serve you well wherever you decided to set up camp.
In this article, we are taking a look at eight career paths that are relatively accessible, should you decide to pursue something other than the traditional courtroom path.
Can you count? Can you see yourself thriving in competitive environments and high-pressure situations? Then you might consider crossing over to finance.
As a Juris Doctor (JD), your degree makes you an invaluable asset to several teams at investment banks, private equity, hedge funds, consulting firms, etc. There are many roles you could play like offering a legal analysis of credit documents, underwriting, indentures. You can help with IPOs, contract formulations, and executions; the possibilities are almost endless. Many finance and investment houses already cut fat checks in billable hours to law firms, they could use more financially-inclined lawyers on the team to help reduce operational costs.
One quick tip though, let your resume portray your understanding of the industry. Don't just be a 'legal hack', instead, cut the image of a multi-dimensional legal and finance person.
Politics and Law seem inherently entrenched. This is so because politicians help legislate and execute laws, therefore, they must possess a sense for how the law is structured and how and why it should be changed.
Just like lawyers, politicians listen to testimonies from the public and co-workers and then make laws based on that. The only difference is while a lawyer argues cases in court to benefit his or her clients, politicians' decisions affect a wider range of people.
From Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, there have been 25 US Presidents (out of 44) with law backgrounds, not counting several other notable Politicians who have served in one political position or the other.
Politics is all about interactions, dealing with people, and influence. These are skills you must have already possessed as a lawyer so why not put them to use by campaigning for broader changes in the world.
Where do you want to start? The choice is yours.
Perhaps you have found after law school that the daily practice of law is not for you, but suppose you are still keen on being active in the field, then why not help train upcoming lawyers?
Being a Law Professor is one of the surest paths to a non-legal career for law degree holders, especially if they love to research and write. The job is not primarily about teaching, even though that is essential, it is more of researching legal documents, laws and writing about them. You will still have to do the normal professorial tasks like giving lectures, grading papers, and office hours, but the bulk of your time would be spent assigning cases for students and listening to arguments. Who knows, you could help shape the legal philosophy of the next Abraham Lincoln.
As a lawyer, you already possess attributes of an excellent journalist: attention to details, natural skepticism, top writing skills, and some knowledge of the political and legal landscape of your immediate environment.
Adding all these to your law degree gives you some form of credibility as a journalist and you will be busy. Imagine how many new laws are being written and passed; what about the huge number of legal cases both pending and active in courts? Now think of how much news coverage several of these attracts.
If you can write well and cope with deadline pressures with potentially irregular hours, you are guaranteed constant work, either as a freelance reporter or as an in-house law correspondent in a media house.
5. Policy Analyst/Advisor:
Several arms of the government have huge policy teams that could be a great fit for you as a lawyer.
Do you have an interest in policy and regulatory development? Would you like to help form policies that affect many people but hate to be in the spotlight? You can work directly with campaign organizations or with policy research firms and non-profit organizations; to do research and gather facts relating to laws and issues of public interest.
6. Human Resource (HR)
Crossing over to HR is a no-brainer to many lawyers since the job requires the application of employment laws. You will be sorting out employment contracts and working to mitigate risks relating to employees' health and safety. In addition, should conflicts and issues arise, you will be involved in their mediation and resolution.
There are many startups in tech, environment, lobbying, and NGO fields, that could use the help of a trained in-house lawyer.
Pick the tech space for instance. If you have a passion for computers, and you are willing to do a 3-6 months boot camp in programming, you can be of great value to many tech startups.
You would be 'lawyer' enough to prevent them from frivolous lawsuits by proof-reading all their legal documents and agreements, yet, you would be 'techy' enough to swim in their world without the need for long-winded explanations of terms and concepts.
8. Law Enforcement
If your exposure to the concepts of law in school has made you more passionate about seeing the law being upheld in the society, then you might also consider joining one of the several governmental law enforcement agencies, for instance, the police.
Perhaps you do not even want to wear the uniform? How about being a prosecution file preparation officer, or even a police lawyer, if you are already qualified to practice.
You could find that these roles offer more exposure to a more diverse range of cases and experience than most jobs in law firms.
If you are still undecided about a fitting career path with your law degree, don't panic.
Just remember, you earned that degree because you are a motivated and an intelligent individual with great work ethic. Wherever you decide to go or whatever you choose to do next, this will serve you well.
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